Paramedics in B.C. say they responded to the highest number of overdose calls ever in a single month in July 2020, right after the provincial government announced more funding for its response to the overdose crisis.
In a tweet on Tuesday, the BC Emergency Health Services said they responded to over 2,700 overdoses in July, which represents the highest number of overdose calls to ever be made in one month.
“The highest numbers were for 21-40-year-olds. No community was immune. Paramedics are pleading: Don’t use alone,” reads the tweet.
Around the same time, the B.C. provincial government announced that a $10.5 million fund has been established to go towards sponsoring the province’s response to an increasingly toxic illicit drug supply.
According to a spokesperson for the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, this $10.5 million is part of the $1.5 billion allocated by the province for B.C.’s COVID-19 recovery plan.
“There have been devastating consequences for people who use substances during dual public health emergencies,” said Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, in a statement.
“Last month saw a record number of lives lost to overdose—all the more heart-breaking since before COVID-19, we had managed to bring deaths down for the first time. The illicit drug supply is more toxic than ever before.”
The funding will be used to open up 17 new supervised consumption sites and 12 new inhalation sites in communities hit the hardest by the overdose crisis, to reduce the number of people using drugs alone.
42 new full-time registered nurses, psychiatric nurses, social workers and peer support workers will be added to 14 new and existing interdisciplinary outreach teams throughout the province.
These workers will conduct initial assessments and connect people with substance use issues to treatment, recovery and services that best suit their needs.
The question of where the supervised consumption and inhalation sites will be built is still up in the air.
“Right now, that is being sorted out with the individual health authorities. We’re looking at which regions are hardest hit and making those decisions in the coming weeks,” said a Ministry spokesperson.
The BC Coroners Service reports for May and June marked both of those months as the deadliest ever in the province since the start of the crisis in 2016, with over 170 deaths each.
Victoria, once again, had the third highest number of overdose deaths in the province, after Vancouver and Surrey.
The BC Coroners Service report for for the number of illicit drug overdose deaths in July is expected to be released in late August.